Trademark Protection for Board Games:
Unlock the Potential of Trade Dress for Your Board Game

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Most savvy entrepreneurs know to apply for trademarks on their product names, company names, logos, and slogans. Of those, inventors who make board games often go straight to patent filings and forget about the trademark analysis. as explored in the article How to Legally Protect Your Board Game Idea.

This article considers a sub-category of trademark law that allows for some interesting board game protection. Trade Dress is an often-overlooked facet of Intellectual Property law that holds significant value for board game inventors and can offer a unique layer of protection for your board game.

What is Trade Dress Protection?

Trade Dress refers to the visual characteristics of a product that signify its source to consumers. It serves as a powerful tool for brand recognition.

Trade Dress protection serves to protect products that, on their face, remind consumers of the entity that provides those products. Take, for instance, a Coca-Cola bottle.

Even if the trademarked Coca-Cola name didn’t appear on the bottle, the appearance of the bottle itself instantly reminds consumers of the brand the bottle belongs to.

-OR- How about this car…

You don’t need an emblem or a name tag to recognize this design as the legendary Lamborghini.

Trademark law is meant to protect a company’s branding. Often, the product design goes hand-in-hand with the company’s brand. In those instances, where the product design can be shown to remind consumers of the origin of the product itself, Trade Dress protection can be granted.

Trade Dress for Board Games

So, what does Trade Dress mean for your board game?

It means that, even if you can’t get a patent on your board game, getting a trademark on the board design can still be an option for an alternative avenue for protection.

Unlike patents that expire within certain periods of time (20 years of utility patents and 14 years for design patents), a trademark lasts for as long as the company uses the mark (which, in this case, is the design itself). Trade Dress protection remains in effect as long as the design continues to signify its source.

Examples of Board Game Trade Dress

Hasbro’s Monopoly is a good example of a board game that has been granted Trade Dress protection. The specific layout and design elements of the Monopoly board are protected, offering a competitive edge in the market.

Like the Monopoly example, in some cases you can file trade dress on particular “Hexagons” of your board:

If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with an attorney. Schedule a consultation with one of our experienced Intellectual Property Attorneys regarding your specific Trademark or Trade Dress needs.